The Diary: Liff is sweet if you get Joe’s Meaning

Joe Moorwood
Joe Moorwood
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IT was a dictionary with a difference which, when released 30 years ago next month, became an international best seller.

The Meaning Of Liff, by cult comedy legends Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, took hundreds of British place names and turned them into words for common experiences or feelings for which no term already existed.

The Hampshire village of Baughurst famously became ‘A fierce ugly woman who owns a fierce ugly dog’.

Now to mark the 30th anniversary of the cult classic, a Sheffield firefighter has created an updated version - featuring only Yorkshire names.

And Joe Moorwood’s text so impressed original author John Lloyd - whose credits include Blackadder and Spitting Image - the legendary writer himself agreed to pen its introduction.

“How does it feel?” asks Joe, of Onslow Road, Hunters Bar. “Pretty mind-blowing. I bought The Meaning Of Liff for my dad when I was 12, and I remember him crying with laughter. That they’ve let me do a follow up is incredible.”

So what’s in there? Quite probably where you live.

Aston? That’s ‘a perfect retort composed an hour and a half too late’. Gleadless? ‘To be pleasantly devoid of thought’. Arksey? ‘The tilt of an imaginary pint glass to ask if someone on the other side of a noisy pub wants a drink’.

Joe came up with his idea years ago.

His dad - who drew the tome’s illustrations - hosted a party at which he asked guests to think up their own local Liffs. That inspired Joe to do a whole book.

He sent it to a couple of publishers but got rejected. Until, that is, he emailed it to producers of a Radio Four show celebrating the original book’s 30th anniversary.

“I did that without expecting to hear anything back,” says the 35-year-old father-of-one. “Then I got a call out the blue from John Lloyd himself. They’d passed it on and he said he loved it.

“It’s strange hearing your comedy hero say that to you.”

He also promised his support if Joe got published. He sent it off again and this time Great Northern agreed.

Now it’s in the shops for Christmas. And Joe? He’s hoping no-one uses his own word, Loftus to describe it. That means ‘a regional book transparently riding on the coattails of an already successful best-seller’.

“I included that to mock myself slightly,” he says. “But I hope people like the book.”

Joe’s Local Liffs...

The Yorkshire Meaning Of Liff is in shops now at £5.99. South Yorkshire examples include:

Auckley: Having an irrational and pointless personal hatred for any form of malfunctioning technology.

Blaxton: An inappropriate text or email sent to the wrong person.

Dunford Bridge: A disastrous topic of conversation embarked upon between two recently acquainted party guests that’s even worse than the awkward silence which preceded it.

Dungworth: One who conveniently has to go to the toilet whenever there’s work to be done.

Hoylandswaine: The subtle on-screen chemistry between two TV presenters that hints at a deep-rooted hatred simmering behind their gleaming smiles.

Shafton: One who blithely overtakes a long line of obediently queuing drivers and then successfully cuts into the required lane at the last minute.

Todwick: One who can be relied upon to back out of a social occasion at the last minute.

Whiston: A fleeting, sentimental memory that causes one to smile nostalgically, while self-satisfactorily cocking one’s head.